People who live longer tend to have a positive attitude towards life, or at least, they enjoy the relative absence of a negative attitude.
Our parents have the strongest influence on our longevity. There is a strong genetic influence on how long each of us will live. We know about many physical factors relating to our health that also influence the length of our lives. What about personality and emotion?
Optimism, defined as a stable tendency to expect positive future outcomes has been associated with longevity. A positive outlook is associated with lower risk of death due to any cause in the regular population. It has also been associated with longer survival in people with cancer, and reduces your risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and after a heart attack or stroke. In some cases, the real driver of longevity appears to be the lack of pessimism, rather than flagrant optimism. Either way, it’s a powerful message.
Several factors may drive this association. First, the same genes that dictate the length of your life may play a role in your personality. Second, optimism has been associated with several biologically favorable measures, such as lower blood pressure, lower levels of systemic inflammation and enhanced immune function. Finally, it is known that individuals with positive outlooks tend to make better health decisions, like exercising, eating better and attending to regular medical issues.
So, although the direct mechanism is not fully appreciated, the clear association between positivity and longevity is compelling enough to have me, for one, working hard to foster a rosy outlook on life.